Squash Coaches Can Produce Great Strength Programs with FitnessBuilder!

April 5, 2015

FitnessBuilder App

It is the start of the new 2015-16 for most U.S. College and High School squash coaches, and to help them plan for the upcoming year, I have just published two blog articles on squash periodization:  one on the Transition Phase and the other on Periodization of Technique and Tactics in the General Preparation Phase (GPP).  My next periodization article in the series will be on the planning of strength training in the GPP.

Before I get to that I want to introduce squash coaches to a fantastic tool that can be used to produce your team’s own custom-designed strength training program:  PumpOne’s Fitness Builder.  I have been using it for the past three years to plan and design my own college team’s strength programs – result:  two complete seasons without a single squash-related injury (you can check with the Smith trainers:)

Coaches can design programs with Fitness builder on their computer or smart device like an iPad or iPhone.  The custom programs can be sent to athletes via emailed PDF or directly to their phone/tablet, and since there are linked video descriptions for every exercise, athletes can take their own “personal trainer” or strength coach to the gym with them – great for the off-season when many squash players are away from the campus gym.  The interface is intuitive and extremely easy to use, with hundreds of exercises to choose from, as well as a variety of fitness programs.  My advice to squash coaches using the wise periodization approach is design your own programs following periodization principles (e.g., Bompa, 2009).  Check out this video overview of the Fitness Builder system:

Now here is the catch – are you qualified to design a periodized squash-specific strength program – or are you just going to “wing it” or copy somebody else’s program – or worse – use the program that got you a hip replacement?

Tennis Training (Kovacs et al.)

The USTA (tennis) has produced a number of books (e.g., Kovacs et al., 2007 above image) which can be used as a reference, as the strength demands of tennis and squash are similar enough.  The drawback of using a strength coach – the NSCA CSCS is the gold standard of certification (I got certified in 2006) – is that many of them come from a football background and still rely heavily on “traditional” strength lifts and exercises.  The major problem with this is that there are much better, more squash-specific and functional exercises available – so what is really needed is someone like myself with both the squash coaching and national level playing background AND a reputable strength training certification. Here is a short video I made on this topic:

If you do not have access to a CSCS with extensive squash experience, a smart alternative is to subscribe to the Exos (formerly Core Performance website) and either a) use their squash or tennis programs; or b) follow their template and select from amongst their bank of exercises when you use fitness builder.  Eighty per cent of the exercises I use with my team are the same or highly similar to Exos exercises (I like to think my programs are a little better than theirs due to my 40 years of experience designing squash-specific strength programs:).  This is what I did four years ago – every week in the fall (I started my Smith Squash Team on September 15th) I would upload the appropriate EXOS training program for both the Smith Tennis and Squash Teams to follow.

Core Performance for Tennis

As a minimum, I would design one program per phase of the annual plan.  If you have an assistant or enjoy this type of coaching you could change the plan up every two weeks, but the law of diminishing returns applies and you would probably be better off spending your time recruiting.

Here is an example program I have used with my team (remember that the version sent to your athletes iPhones has clickable video descriptions for each exercise!):

Fitness builder Example

Last couple of words on this topic.  If you are a squash coach working with not yet fully mature juniors, make sure you follow LTAD guidelines for squash or tennis.  If you need help in this area please give me a call – my rates are reasonable to develop custom branded programs for you and your team.

“Twisting” Exercises for Squash

April 2, 2010

I have already blogged about that fact that traditional “bodybuilding” exercises like the biceps curl, bench press, and squats have limited value for squash players, if they form the major component of a supplementary strength training program.  I have also suggested that squash coaches visit Core Performance as they represent the latest thinking in strength training.  Their programs incorporate injury prevention, core and functional exercises, and sport-specific exercises as part of the “train movements not muscles” philosophy.

A sport-specific exercise is defined as an exercise that mimics, or has some (or many) characteristics of a sport’s skill(s).  For example a medicine ball side throw has many of the same elements as a squash forehand drive – a ground up kinetic chain action involving the legs, hips, torso and finally the arms and hands.

Here is a short program of twisting exercises that could be considered squash-specific.  An ideal time to do these would be in the off- or pre-season when athletes are not speeding a lot of time on the court – or they could be added to your current routine if you have not already incorporated “twisting” types of movements.  I have divided this short program into the same sections as a Core Performance Program.  The  videos examples are from a variety of sources – each of which leads to other examples and variations.  Tubing can be substituted and used for the cable exercises – and perhaps a good idea for those coaching juniors as it minimizes risk of injury.

Section 1 – Prehab

Exercise 1:  Hip Crossover

Rationale: Dynamic stretching of lower back, hips to prepare for more vigorous twisting exercises.

Sets: 1  Reps: 5 each side  Rhythm:  Slow

Section 2 – Movement Prep

Exercise 2:  Carioca

Rationale:  Dynamic stretching of torso, raising body temperature (like jogging), while working on foot agility and dynamic balance

Sets: 1   Reps:  10 yards in each direction  Rhythm: start slow and increase speed while maintaining form

Exercise 3:  Reverse Walking Lunge & Twist

Rationale: Dynamic stretch of lunging and twisting muscles while working on balance with some strength-endurance

Sets: 1   Reps: 6 each leg     Rhythm:  slow

Section 3 – Medicine Ball

Exercise 4:  Side Throw

Rationale:  Works the squash hitting muscles used in a full drive.

Sets: 1    Reps:  8 each side   Rhythm:  Moderate to explosive based on experience

Exercise 5:  Lunge Throws

Rationale:  Works twisting muscles used in squash drives from a lunge position and lunge muscular endurance.  If you are training alone you can throw against a wall.

Sets: 1    Reps:  8 each leg   Rhythm:  lunge slow, throw moderate.

Section 4 – Strength

Exercise 6 – Standing Rotational Push-Pull

Rationale:  A great squash-specific alternative to bench press and seated row – the squat like position mimics that of a squash drive, and the rotational movement works the squash core and twisting muscles.

Sets: 2     Reps: 10 each arm   Rhythm:  slow to moderate

Exercise 7:  Keiser Standing Cable Twist

Rationale:  Works the squash core and twisting muscles used in squash drives.

Sets:  2   Reps: 10 each side  Rhythm:  slow to moderate

Exercise 8: Rotational Row – 1 Arm Cable Standing (No embedded video – click on the link to view video!)

Rationale:  Use of one arm is very squash specific, and explosive action ensures correct use of kinetic chain used in full squash drives.

Sets:  2   Reps:  10 each side  Rhythm:  Moderate to explosive based on experience.

Application for Squash Coaches:

  1. Integrate squash-specific twisting exercises into your program.
  2. Avoid time-wasting uni-joint, body-building exercises.

Strength Training for Squash – Basic Exercises made Squash-Specific

February 18, 2010

I have already blogged on some useless strength exercises for squash – in this post I discuss how we can turn some of these useless, basic, “bodybuilding” -type of exercises into more useful ones.

The strategy to do this is simple, and is based on the importance of the lunge in squash, and the need to save time in our squash supplementary strength workouts.  Depending on the level of play and type of strategy and shots being used, a player may need to lunge up to 100 times or more a match. Three types of muscle contraction are important in performing the lunge in a match situation:  eccentric as you step into the lunge and plant your front foot, isometric when there is a momentary holding of position, and concentric as the legs push back out of the lunge.  The lunge trained in the video examples below is the static one – also useful in the beginning weeks of a annual periodized strength program for working an athlete up towards more dynamic and intense lunging, such as that used in court movement drills and plyometrics.

There are definitely more complex and intense exercises that incorporate lunging – this post is emphasizing a safe, easy way to incorporate more core and squash specificity into a regular routine. Keiser Functional Training has a YouTube Channel which features the use of cable machines for more core and functional training, and of course Core Performance has a wide variety of lunging type exercises that are great for squash.

Three Absolutely Useless Strength Exercises for Squash!

August 9, 2009

We have blogged about appropriate physical training for squash before – both for juniors and adults. Just to punctuate the point, here is a video demonstrating three not so good strength training exercises, along with a brief review of the three  Core Performance books and other product offerings.  In my travels I am still observing a bit too much old-style training for racquets sports.  I think part of the problem is that most of the NSCA’s Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialists (I am one myself) prescribing strength programs for the racquet sports have a football or basketball background.  Despite being up to date on the latest functional training and the demands of sports like squash, they cannot get their heads around leaving out exercises that have been a key part of all strength programs.